The Braswell and Okoro administration seeks to continue building community among students


Lauren Braswell

SGA Vice President Miracle Okoro, former President Demon Thomas and President Lauren Braswell smile next to each other

Laura Johnson, [email protected], News writer

UNC Asheville’s Student Government Association elected and inaugurated its new president and vice president. Both juniors, SGA President Lauren Braswell and Vice President Miracle Okoro look to the 2022-23 school year as an opportunity for change and growth.

“I think two Black women being in leadership at this school is a powerful force to be in,” Okoro said.

Braswell and Okoro have a myriad of plans for the upcoming year, all of which are intended for longevity.

“At the end of the day it’s not about me, it’s about the legacy, who comes after us,” Braswell said.

Their plans and projects, some of which are already in the works, are a combination of new ideas and a continuation of the ideas instituted by the former Thomas administration.

“We do plan on continuing some of the initiatives that Demon’s administration started like 1927 day,” Okoro said.

Initiatives led by former SGA president Thomas such as 1927 day are meant to increase school spirit amongst students, faculty and staff.

“I want to increase the school spirit, I know we’ve lost that over COVID and there was just a spark that got my attention when I was looking at what colleges I wanted to go to and that spark brought me here. I want to bring that spark back so other people can enjoy that as well,” Braswell said.

One of the biggest goals for this administration is community building and outreach. Community throughout campus as well as community between campus and the city of Asheville.

“Other things that I would like to move forward on into the next year is definitely working with more off-campus organizations and building more bridges with the campus community and Asheville community because it really is a small network here and I feel like we could help each other if we work better together,” Braswell said.

This is not an undertaking for SGA on its own. This expansive goal necessitates the cooperation of the university administration, SGA, all UNCA and Asheville community members.

“I think the university could be a great service to the community and a great service to its students by providing some support for students to be connected with the greater Asheville community,” Okoro said.

The actual election process is an entire ordeal on its own as goals and aspirations alone don’t guarantee election success.

“I really just wanted to be president because I’m all about making an impact and that’s something I want to do in my future, so I want to learn how to do it on a smaller scale and I want to help my community,” Braswell said.

To make these dreams a reality, Braswell and Okoro campaigned and advocated for themselves both online and in-person to the student body.

“Campaigning was a humbling experience. It allowed me to see who’s still engaged and who’s kinda tapped out,” Braswell said.

Braswell and Okoro both said they felt this process put them out of their comfort zone and compelled them to focus on the connection aspect with students rather than spouting promises.

“I enjoy connecting with people, I’m probably the most non-diplomatic person you will ever meet. I do care a lot about relevant issues that affect people, but I care about humans and I care about humans being able to live comfortably and live happily,” Okoro said.

After all their campaigning, Braswell and Okoro were elected by a voter pool of their peers.

“I feel like we are exactly what we say we are and right after getting inaugurated we started backing it up,” Braswell said.

Another big project for this administration is educational equity and not just on the UNCA campus. Braswell and Okoro said they seek to aid those in education all around the Asheville area.

“Moving forward, not only continuing what Demon Thomas has started, the seeds he’s planted, we are moving forward to help decrease the education gap with Asheville students on all levels,” Braswell said.

Braswell also spoke about teaching other students on all levels, not just college, to advocate for themselves and to empower themselves.

“We just want to make sure that we’re helping as many people as we can and we just have power here, knowledge, knowledge is power and we want to make sure that we’re sharing that,” Braswell said.

These efforts extend to the UNCA community. Beyond institutional efforts, Braswell and Okoro seek to empower and connect the students on this campus to build their own sense of belonging.

“I think our number one priority is to be an advocate for the campus community,” Okoro said. “The students make the university and so we need to learn how to get stuff done on our own without relying on people in power.”

While this administration has many goals and aspirations spanning from sustainability to community connection, Braswell sums it up in a sentence.

“Moving forward, I just want to unite the community. I want everyone to just find their purpose here and be happy and create a safe space for everyone to just be their true authentic self,” Braswell said.